I recently learned about Susun Weed’s Six Steps of Healing from Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way. When I am faced with health challenges, either my own or someone I am caring for, I sometimes wonder, “Have I tried everything?” This little list helps me to consciously think through each phase of options available to me. In the realm of midwifery care, this would be a way to approach information or diagnoses we get in pregnancy and labor, or even how we might face complications. (Susun’s words are in bold, my comments are not.)
Step 0. Do nothing
[Sleep, meditate, unplug the clock or the telephone]
Acknowledging this as an option is perhaps my favorite step. Especially with childhood issues, how many things do kids just “grow out of” if we leave them alone? If your kids are like mine, they have probably just worked their way out of things like colds and sprains, a speech impediment or even an obsession with wearing a newsie cap everyday. If it is very big or scary, we may process it internally and this is the space before we speak it into reality. I like that this step gives us a chance to sit with the problem for a time, without judgment of what we should be doing. And besides, everything bleak looks at least a little better after a good night’s sleep.
Step 1. Collect information
[Low-tech diagnosis, books, support groups, divination]
As we collect information, I would add to look to trusted sources and do plenty of sifting as you collect information. This is the step where the internet is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, you can connect with others who are experiencing the same thing you are, but you can also easily convince yourself that your gas pains are gallstones or worse. I love that Susun includes divination as a source of information. I have had numerous experiences with knowing what was wrong or having an idea of how to fix it just by tuning-in to my intuition. I believe we are especially entitled to this kind of knowing by virtue of carrying that human within us for 10 months. Our job is to practice listening.
Step 2. Engage the energy
[Prayer, homeopathy, ceremony, affirmations, laughter]
I think the interesting word here is “the” energy. How helpful to remember that we are all made from and surrounded by the energy, and we have our favorite ways of engaging it. And in thinking of the progression of the steps, now that I have done some research and I know what I am dealing with, I can take it to God. Also, if you don’t already know very much about homeopathy, I would encourage you to become acquainted with this time-tested and gentle world of remedies. Because the doses are so miniscule, it really is like a nudge to the energy attuned to the individual person and circumstance.
Step 3. Nourish and tonify
[Herbal infusions and vinegars, hugs, exercise, food choices, gentle massage, yoga stretches]
I love the word nourish and I want to use it more in speaking and in action. How much better off are we when nourishing is a conscious part of our daily interactions with our own bodies and with each other? If we view symptoms or disease within our bodies as communication and messages of what our body, organ, or system is needing, we are much more able to find ways to nourish and increase our vitality and health in positive ways.
In my experience, the vast majority of health concerns will be remedied by careful use of the previous steps. Also, Susun notes that the use of the next three steps always causes some harm. This can be an alarming yet valid realization. It means that they will cause effects, some of which are not always known and cannot always be controlled. This is the threshold from one level of intervention into another, more aggressive level.
Step 4. Stimulate or sedate
[Hot or cold water, many herbal tinctures, acupuncture]
For every stimulation/sedation, there is an opposite sedation/stimulation, sooner or later. Addiction is possible if this step is overused.
This means using something to either start something or stop something in our bodies. This caution makes sense to me because whatever we are using to create change, we are artificially stimulating the body. Change will only happen as long as the stimulus or sedation is taken. This can become emotionally or physically addicting, because when we repeatedly use the substance to create change, more will be required to effect change as time goes on. One of the goals of health is to find homeostasis, which is the balance in the body. We want to gently move the body towards creating homeostasis. If we are repeatedly using something to mimic balance, we are not actually in homeostasis.
Step 5a. Use supplements
[Synthesized or concentrated vitamins, minerals, and food substances such as nutritional yeast, blue-green algae, bran]
These substances may do as much harm as good.
Step 5b. Use drugs
[Chemotherapy, tamoxifen* , hormones, high dilution homeopathics, and potentially toxic herbs] (*Again, this list was written specifically about breast cancer and breast health.)
Again, all the effects may be unknown and because the substances used are more powerful, they will definitely cause action in the body. We must be careful and conscious about choosing what to take in these steps.
Step 6. Break and enter
[Threatening language, surgery, colonics, radiation therapies, psychoactive drugs, invasive diagnostic tests such as mammograms* and C-T scans]
Side effects, including death, are inevitable.
In pregnancy, this would include things like amniocentesis. In birth, this can be artificial rupture of membranes, internal fetal monitoring, Cesarean, etc. Also note that at this level, side effects are inevitable.
It is interesting that, especially in more serious health concerns or birth complications, this is often the first step instead of the last. This list is not discounting the necessity for this level of intervention when all the other options have failed; however it does encourage us to think through and consider many other things first. I believe that even if we end up with one of those more drastic interventions like a C-section, the process of moving through the steps will make our arrival in the operating room much less traumatizing because we have traveled the road and made conscious choices each step of the way.
I believe one of the greatest benefits of this list is the reminder to slow down and think. Anyone who has spent any time waiting in an emergency room knows that many supposed emergencies do not actually require immediate action. A broken bone will still be broken tomorrow and the time to breathe, rest, and consider all our options is important for our bodies and spirits. Another great insight is that we can cycle back through the steps as new information comes or as we heal. We may go through step 3, then wait and do nothing as we are waiting to see the effects of our actions. Then we start again with where we are now.